Friday, February 8, 2013

River Sojourn

Winter is wonderful.  It allows the body and mind time to renew, in preparation for the more active pursuits of spring.  This winter, as with most, I have been dreaming of canoeing, camping and fishing.  

I've decided that the kids, now 8 and 5 years old, are ready for some more adventurous canoe camping, when the weather, and waters, warm to a more suitable temp.  They have done their share of canoeing and fishing, but camping has been primarily of the car variety, and, while car camping has it's own charm, it doesn't have the single most important charm that first led me to camping - the ability to get away from large numbers of people.  

So this winter has found me restocking and supplementing the camping supplies to include gear that is a little lighter and a bit more waterproof/water-friendly.  Most important among the list of new acquisitions are a couple Rubbermaid Action Packers, which are about the most cost-effective durable weatherproof storage I have found, and a somewhat adequate substitute for the more traditional canoe wannigan.  

I found myself thinking of a trip we took a couple years ago that was our first foray into canoe camping with kids.  I pulled up a few photos to reminisce, and, remembering the trip also involved some good fishing, it seemed appropriate to catalog it here.

We were taking part in the Juniata River Sojourn, an annual event here in central PA.  The event is sponsored by the Juniata Clean Water Partnership and is a well planned float and camping adventure that you can participate in for a day or two, or the entire five or six.

Meals, interesting stops and presenters are included, camping is pre-arranged, and your camp supplies are ferried ahead by vehicle to minimize the gear you must carry in your canoe or kayak.  Safety is a priority and the trip includes qualified guides/safety staff.  

Similar sojourns occur all over the U.S. and are a great way to introduce kids and less experienced adults to joys of paddling and camping.

A motley crew, ready to launch

Paddling in a group can be quite a social event...
...but even group trips provide moments of serenity

No better way to cool off than to abandon ship for a while

My daughter, about to turn 6 at the time, paddled like a champ for hours.  As we prepared to coast ashore at our campsite, she closed her eyes and learned one of the best rewards of a hard day's paddle - the ability to sleep well...even sitting up.

Out of Gas
Home Sweet Home

Fishing was not a priority for this trip, but I can't be in a canoe without a rod, so I did some lazy fishing as we went.  The sky was high and the sun was strong.  Flows were about average for June and the water was quite clear.

As we pushed off in Lewistown, PA, after lunch at the town park and a short presentation on local history, I found myself waiting for the rest of the armada to launch.  I grabbed my trusty medium light spinning rod and threw a small jerk bait directly at the upstream side of concrete bridge piling.  A jerk...a pause...WHAM!

After an exciting fight, during which the smallmouth headed for the bottom of a deep hole and then launched an aerial assault, in an attempt to throw the lure, I brought to hand a hefty piece of Juniata River smallmouth measuring 21.5".  I've fished this river off and on for 20 years and this fish was a personal best, and good enough for an official citation from the PA Fish & Boat Commission.

A great trip, and a reminder that the best fishing can sometimes strike when you least expect it.


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